Monday, May 25, 2009

AAWAA 20th Year Celebration..Planning and Conceptualizing

I am a member of an artist group called AAWAA.
It is an Asian American Women Artists group here in the San Francisco Bay Area founded twenty years ago by Flo Oy Wong and Betty Kano and includes musicians, writers and visual artists.

We are in the planning stages of what we will do for this 20 year celebration and have rented SOMA ARTS for an evening celebration on September 26th and a two week period surrounding that date.

Only in the past year has AAWAA become an official 501c nonprofit and notably last year AAWAA had an artist residency at the de Young Museum in San Francisco titled “A Place of Her Own”. This exhibit was conceptualized by Cynthia Tom.

AAWAA also published a book called “Cheers to Muses” and members have participated in presenting lectures at nearby universities and colleges.

In celebrating this 20 milestone, we need to look both backward and forward and build upon what the organization has already done. Two of the exhibits at the 20 year anniversary will focus upon expanding on Cheers to Muses and A Place of Her Own concepts. There will also be a display of the history of the organization and works of current and past members. Sue Kwon of Channel 5 News has graciously agreed to join us for the evening in some sort of presenter function.

I am participating in brainstorming and conceptualizing how to expand the Place of Her Own concept out to become a public participatory project. I would love for the actual “box” that the individual personalizes to be something that is downloadable... a template that can be printed and folded up into a box. I would also like to see the AAWAA website post images of these individual creations ...people would photograph their box and email the image back creating a sort of online virtual tapestry of little spaces knit together. For the purposes of the 20th anniversary perhaps we would have an earlier workshop using pre assembled boxes to work with and then at the event have a table were people could create their spaces and add them to the growing tapestry.

Above: Rough concept sketch of fold up boxes that individuals would personalize. These shapes would then be connected to form a hanging installation to be hung in SOMA ARTS. The outside of the box would be decorated with images representing how we present ourselves to others and the inside would be decorated with images and objects that represent one's interior creative self and space.

Having space or place of one's own as an artist does not mean just a physical space. As an artist it is most important to create a space for quite creativity in one’s mind. We all need people in our lives who help us create that mental space. It seems cliché, but it does take a village, whether it is someone willing to listen, babysit, critique a painting or read our writings … we need the nurturing of others to help us define ourselves as artists and create that mental space to be one. So often we do not get that support. It is also important that we freely offer that support to others as well.

As a female artist and caretaker with other responsibilities, I know I speak for a lot of women artists when I say that my art world is cobbled together from different contacts and experiences and these all thread together at disjointed times…an email here and an email there. We do not live and breathe being an artist all day; it is a fractured existence of disjointed moments between other roles. My blog is my space of my own where I have my voice and can articulate ideas in an organize way. My time in my studio at night is my space of my own to create my art.

My physical art space used to be a large sheet of cardboard from a refrigerator box that I would lay flat across my bed for a work space. At night I would tie down my art with wire and prop it against the wall so my husband and I could sleep in the bed. It didn’t bother me that this was an unusual set up. I was compelled to create my work and this was my solution to create a large work area. The key was that I had the mental space to view myself as an artist and not as a crazy woman with cardboard on her bed.

I have an artist friend, Nemo Gould, who, when I met him, had created a huge mechanical squid the length of a car. I thought, man, this guy must have the hugest coolest studio. Nope, he built it in the narrow hallway of his apartment! He had understanding roommates. It takes imagination not only to create art, but to create that mental space to envision you available physical space as usable and to make it your studio. (By the way this was years ago and I think Nemo now has that huge cool studio).

We need the support of others to create our own space. It may seem ironic, but we need others to help us find that private isolated mental space to explore who we are as artists.

Reflecting this interlocked nature, I envision that the AAWAA visitor participatory tapestry would be composed of interlocking containers folded up from a PDF template printed on cardstock. The PDF could possibly have information printed on it somewhere about mental breathing space. It could have mental health info on it as well. This mental health issue was brought up in some of the discussions and perhaps can be intergrated. Cynthia Tom also envisioned an outreach component to social services and women's shelter to develop an art workshop that is designed to help women express themselves and think about what they need to create that place of her own. I envision that the completed tapestry would have some empty spaces or blackened boxes representing space yet to be discovered.

At any rate this above is a first pass at the concept.

Shizue Seigel sent this image to me of a piece she had created in another workshop.
"On a related theme, at a workshop we were given a box with a lid and asked to decorate the outside as others expected us to be, the inside as our inner selves. They were commercially produced carboard boxes. Instead of lid and box, each of the two pieces could be separate units with the outside on one side, walk round to see the inside, strung with fishing line." I can visualize elements of this used for the Place of Her Own visitor participatory project.

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